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International Teaching Weeks 2021: Digitally successful – but not without melancholy

The time had come again: Following the biennial cycle, we – in spite of the pandemic – held our International Teaching Weeks 2021 again this spring. Unfortunately, it was not possible to follow the tried and tested pattern of previous years, in which we received our guest lecturers from partner universities for a week in Hof and they worked with our students on site. But we took the opportunity to try out new digital formats on an international level – a thoroughly exciting undertaking!

Faculty from 12 countries enriched the events; Image: Hof University of Applied Sciences;

International guests in all faculties

Our faculties of business, engineering and computer science invited colleagues from around the world to interact with students online. We were joined by faculty from 12 countries (USA, Mexico, Argentina, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Austria, Greece, Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Japan). We were pleased to welcome “old hands” who had participated in previous years, but some new colleagues also contributed.

International Co-Teaching: Future-oriented format with fun factor

A wide variety of teaching formats were offered: from classic hand-over lectures, in which the guest took over entire teaching units, to joint lectures by Hof lecturers with their international partners. Since the events all took place online, we were also able to integrate students from our partner universities in some cases.

A successful example of this international co-teaching is the online hackathon that Prof. Dr. Jürgen Heym (HS Hof) and Prof. Joseph Oakes from PennState Abington, USA, jointly offered for computer science students. In addition to students from Hof and Abington, students from Epitech (France) and Vishwakarma Institute of Technology (India) also participated. Several international teams (4-6 students each) worked together to develop prototypes of eCommerce applications

The feedback from the students was very positive – we should offer this format again.

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Heym

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Leuoth pursued a similar model. Together with Abay Nussipbekov from Suleyman Demirel University in Kazakhstan, he held an event in the field of machine learning. Students from both universities worked together to learn how intelligent cameras work. It became apparent that working together across time zones can lead to misunderstandings. As in “real” working life, the participants had to react quickly and flexibly. This also meant adapting to each other’s working hours and working a lot on weekends.

“Funny thing was that our kick-off had to start late because we overlooked the time change in Kazakhstan during the planning. So Team Hof was an hour too early. All in all, though, it was a great experience for everyone involved.”

Prof. Dr. Sebastian Leuoth

Digital cultural exchange – with minor obstacles

The offerings of the International Teaching Week brought students and teachers into contact with other working and learning cultures. This could also be challenging at times, e.g. with regard to the teaching language English. Everyone involved had to adjust to changing accents, sometimes Russian-tinged, sometimes French – just as can happen again and again later in professional life.

Our international guest lecturers inspired our students with lasting enthusiasm for new cultures, as the example of Prof. Marc Löhr from Yamaguchi University in Japan shows. His contributions to Prof. Stefan Wengler’s marketing courses fascinated some students so much that they spontaneously applied for a semester of study in Japan. The digital exchange will soon turn into a real cultural experience.

A little melancholy

Some teaching opportunities are still ongoing at the moment, but already the International Teaching Weeks 2021 are a success. We have made a virtue of necessity and discovered the digital format as a viable way for international outreach and exchange between students and faculty from around the world. New forms of teaching and collaboration were tried out. We will continue and expand this path beyond ITW 2021 with our DAAD-funded inter-faculty project “International Interdisciplinary Partnership Program (I2P2)”.

Of course, we are all looking forward to meeting in person again soon. It is not uncommon for small and large project ideas to develop from conversations over coffee or an evening glass of wine. Offered online meetings for networking, like our digital kick-off event or the get-to-know-you round for participating international students, work, but they are no real substitute for a shared on-site experience enjoying a Hofer beer and a pair of bratwursts in a cozy beer garden.

Susanne Krause
Jörg Noldin
Tina Seidel

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